The Aquaculture Market Study is a three-year (2020-2023), $250,000 project led by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program that was created to determine the potential for a sustainable food-fish aquaculture industry in Minnesota.
“Potential food-fish farmers planning to enter the industry are interested in credible data that will help them decide which production strategies and species are best suited for profitability,” said Amy Schrank, project lead and University of Minnesota Sea Grant fisheries and aquaculture extension educator. “Producers will need this information to apply for loans from banks and lending institutions.”
Food-fish or fish for human consumption is a relatively new and modest aquaculture industry in Minnesota and includes seafood such as shrimp and other forms of shellfish in addition to fish.
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.
What is a market study?
A market study helps to identify and analyze information about target markets and customers for a particular product. The products in this project are farm-raised fish, which are aquaculture products.
Why? Interest in food-fish aquaculture is growing in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region because consumers want to purchase local foods and are concerned about food security. The increase in worldwide demand for protein and decrease in stocks of wild-caught fish are also driving interest in food-fish aquaculture. The project team will assess Minnesota’s current food-fish supply through detailed interviews with food-fish farmers and distributors. The team will also work with farmers to determine production costs of various fish species grown in Minnesota.
Barriers? A major barrier to development of aquaculture businesses in Minnesota is a better understanding of potential markets and market-price targets for locally produced fish. Specifically, potential growers are interested in credible data that can help them decide which production strategies and species are best suited for profitable production.
State regulatory agencies. Minnesota’s regulatory and management agencies are interested in being prepared for the development of new and diverse forms of aquaculture at all operational scales.
What do we plan to do? To determine the viability of a sustainable aquaculture industry in Minnesota, we plan to:
- Analyze consumer knowledge, preference, and willingness to pay for aquaculture products;
- Assess the current food fish supply to determine what production systems and species will be most profitable for producers and identify market opportunities;
- Provide clear recommendations to both the aquaculture industry and policymakers through a robust outreach program based on our results, and
- Contribute to workforce development in U.S. aquaculture by training a graduate student. By addressing critical gaps in economic and market knowledge, our project will help determine the potential for expansion of a sustainable aquaculture industry in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region and contribute to job creation, healthy food production, and the growth of local businesses.
Who will use this information? “The information from these assessments will be coupled with consumer demand data to identify price points so that profit margins can be estimated for the Minnesota food-fish industry,” said Don Schreiner, University of Minnesota Sea Grant fisheries specialist and project member. “This information will be important to determine if Minnesota-grown fish can compete successfully with fish grown out of state.”
- The Aquaculture Market Study project team held monthly planning meetings with project members Hikaru Peterson, project lead and professor of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota (UMN) and Kristi Getschel, UMN graduate student.
- May 2023: Minnesota Sea Grant's (MNSG) May 2023 extension column is an article about the consumer food-fish survey titled “A Fish Barn at the Minnesota State Fair?” It was published in MNSG’s May 2023 Highlights to call attention to the efforts of the Aquaculture Market Study project team at the 2022 Minnesota State fair.
- Aquaculture Market Study project partner Hikaru Peterson, project lead and professor of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota evaluated the results of the Minnesota Sea Grant consumer seafood survey that the project team conducted at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair, and a consumer seafood survey developed as a project for her fall 2022 economics class at the University of Minnesota. The Aquaculture Market Study project team will use the results from both surveys to develop a more in-depth statewide consumer survey on seafood to be conducted spring/summer 2023.
- February 2023: The results of these two pilot surveys were presented by Hikaru Peterson at the jointly hosted Wisconsin-Minnesota Aquaculture Association meeting in.
- An extensive literature review was completed in fall 2022, and a number of tools used to conduct consumer and producer surveys are being developed by Kristi Getschel, University of Minnesota graduate student.
- December 2022: The Aquaculture Market Study project team met with the Aquaculture Market Study advisory group to update them and receive input on the Aquaculture Market Study project.
- The results and responses from both the Minnesota State Fair and class project surveys will be used to develop the statewide formal consumer survey that will be distributed in 2023.
- Fall 2022: Professor Hikaru Peterson from the University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics used the Aquaculture Market Study as a class project in her economics class and as a result the class developed their own consumer survey that was sent to 300 participants for feedback. The results of the class survey will be analyzed and a final report will be prepared.
- November 2022: Kristi Getschel, University of Minnesota graduate student joined the Aquaculture Market Study project team and completed an extensive literature review after the previous graduate student left due to unforeseen circumstances.
- Summer/fall 2022: The Aquaculture Market Study project team continued to hold monthly planning meetings with project partners.
- August 2022: A major accomplishment of the Aquaculture Market Study project was the design, implementation and preliminary evaluation of a consumer survey that the project team distributed at the University of Minnesota “Driven to Discover” facility at the Minnesota State Fair in late August 2022. This allowed the project team to engage with consumers where more in-depth information on consumer attitudes about aquaculture was gained using the survey as a starting point.
- The Minnesota State Fair survey was distributed during two half-day periods, to over 200 consumers with useful data being received from 183 participants. Preliminary data analysis has occurred and has been presented to the market study advisory group.
- Spring/summer 2022: A second advisory group meeting was scheduled to review the consumer survey and discuss plans to distribute the survey at the Minnesota State Fair in late summer 2022.
- December 2021: Minnesota Sea Grant staff created an Aquaculture Market Study advisory group composed of nine people from the aquaculture industry, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The first Aquaculture Market Study advisory group meeting was convened on December 17, 2021, and input was received about what information was needed from the Aquaculture Market Study.
- Graduate student, Eric Honebrink, was hired in 2021, to work on Minnesota Sea Grant's (MNSG) Aquaculture Market Study project as part of his Master’s thesis. Professor Hikaru Peterson from the University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics was Eric's major advisor. In 2021, Eric started an ongoing literature review and began drafting a consumer survey to assess the potential for a food fish market in Minnesota.
Why Minnesota Sea Grant?
The Aquaculture Market Study project supports Sea Grant's mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. Specifically, this project supports our national and state focus area of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
What have we done lately?
- The Aquaculture Market Study project team continues to meet monthly.
- A draft of the consumer survey was distributed to Aquaculture Market Study advisory board members for comments and they suggested adding shrimp to the list of species that will get extra attention in the survey on the topic of willingness to pay. The Aquaculture Market Study project team is exploring how to best add shrimp to the survey.
- Examples of enterprise budgets (various costs associated with producing seafood) for a variety of seafood species produced in Minnesota are being assembled by Kristi Getschel, University of Minnesota graduate student. Kristi is interviewing aquaculture experts in the Midwest and gathering information on various types of production systems and the estimated costs to construct and operate those systems.
- The Aquaculture Market Study project team anticipates that the consumer survey will be distributed in 2024.
Participants & audience
The Aquaculture Market Study project seeks to serve aquaculture farmers in Minnesota.
Minnesota Sea Grant’s project “Determining Market Potential for Food-Fish Aquaculture in Minnesota” is funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s competition “Addressing Economic and Market Needs of the U.S. Aquaculture Industry,” federal funding opportunity number NOAA-OAR-SG-2020-2006331.
Our May 2023 extension column is by Minnesota Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist Don Schreiner, pictured above on the left. Don and volunteer Nick Horton were recruiting fairgoers to participate in MNSG's consumer food-fish survey at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair.
Image credit: M. Thoms/MNSG
- University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics,